Apr 04


Popular8 comments • 3,105 views

#96, 5th February 1960

Hello Britpop. When I was a teenage Bowie fan all the biographies mentioned how David’s early vocal style was indebted to Anthony Newley’s, but I’d never heard of or heard Newley before and didn’t get round to tracking his stuff down. Now of course I realise that the biogs could have said “Bowie kidnapped Newley, cut his larynx out from his still-pulsing throat and had it transplanted in a secret Crowleyan ceremony” and they’d not have been exaggerating. The resemblance is almost grotesque, and of course having grown up with Bowie it takes a big effort to remember that it’s Newley who minted the style.

In a way it’s fitting that I can’t separate Newley from his pastiche – Newley’s fame as a pop singer was founded on a pastiche of his own. Jeep Jackson, a British rock star forced topically into the army, was the lead character in a proto-Carry On romp called Idle On Parade. Alongside Sid James and Bernie Winters was Newley, playing Jackson and winding up in the charts himself with songs from the film, helping to fill the Presley-shaped gap created by the great man’s real army career. Bowie would have adored such an onionish origin.

As a song “Why?” is almost too saccharine to take seriously. “I’ll always love you so / Why? Because you love me / No broken hearts for us because we love each other” and on and on like a Cockney Care Bear. The glassy, plinksome arrangement is all too appropriate. As a performance, though, this is cutting-edge, another exercise in selling Britain its own speaking voice – Newley’s London edge is weirdly offset by his backing cherubs’ Transatlantic tint. Newley’s singing sounds more natural and emotive than Adam Faith – not that he’s given much to emote with here – the experiment fails only because the song is so rotten.



  1. 1
    Bry on 1 Jan 2007 #

    Oh yeah – the song “WHY?” is REALLY soppy (sappy for you Americans.)
    BUT it is a moving song, that is a pleasure to sing and play for
    the musicians.

  2. 2
    wichita lineman on 14 May 2008 #

    My memory of hearing this for the first time, on Jimmy Saville’s Old Record Club, is of my dad going “oh, for God’s sake!” after one too many “becorz we luv each uvahh”. Makes Bowie’s God Only Knows sound underplayed.

    But I do have a soft spot for Newley’s next number one, and his collaboration with Delia Derbyshire which – sadly- hasn’t troubled a catalogue number, let alone a pop chart.

  3. 3
    Billy Smart on 13 Jul 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Not all that many UK TV appearances of Anthony Newley are listed. Here’s what no longer exists;

    DRUMBEAT: with The Raindrops, The Lana Sisters, Terry Dene, Anthony Newley (1959)

    THE IVOR NOVELLO AWARDS: with W. E. Butlin, M.B.E., Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Anthony Newley, Helen Shapiro, Matt Monro, Johnny Dankworth And His Orchestra, Tony Osborne, Ron Grainer, The Ivor Raymonde Singers (1962)

    THE SOUND OF PETULA: with Petula Clark, Anthony Newley (1972)

    THIS IS… TOM JONES: with The Mike Sammes Singers, The Norman Maen Dancers, Sue & Sonny, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Peggy Lipton, Anthony Newley (1970)

    While these programmes have survived;

    AN EVENING WITH…: Anthony Newley (1980)

    PARKINSON: with Leslie Briscusse, Petula Clark, Anthony Newley (1978)

    SHOWSTOPPERS: with Beverley Craven, John Nettles, Anthony Newley, Luther Vandross (1995)

    SUNDAY, SUNDAY: with Anthony Newley, Kenneth Branagh, Thunderbirds Spoof (1989)

    THIS IS YOUR LIFE: Anthony Newley (1992)

    THE VAL DOONICAN MUSIC SHOW: with Anthony Newley, Max Boyce, Elkie Brooks (1979)

    VAL PARNELL’S SPECTACULAR: The Anthony Newley Show (1960)

    WOGAN: with Cheryl Baker, George Martin, Anthony Newley, Palace, Vanity Fare (1986)

    WOGAN: with Julien Clerc, Lady Valerie Goulding, Anthony Newley, John Timpson (1987)

    WOGAN: with Emma, Thom Hardwell, Anthony Newley, Nicholas Paul, Con O’Neill (1990)

  4. 4
    Sam on 11 Sep 2010 #

    He is a strange beast. I recently watched a relentlessly downbeat early ’60s film, ‘The Small World Of Sammy Lee’, where he stars as a failed spiv rushing around trying to make £400 to avoid a beating from loan sharks.

  5. 5
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #


    Bill Kenwright, Theatre producer (1998).

  6. 6
    Chelovek na lune on 5 May 2013 #

    I first encountered Anthony Newley’s name in the introduction to the Derek and Clive sketch “This Bloke Came Up To Me” (as either D or C confirmed to the other that the bloke who came up to him was not, in fact, Mr Newley).

    Appropriately, this track is about as far from the gratuitous coarseness and crudity of that sketch (or D&C in general) as can be imagined: syrupy sweet doesn’t even quite come close. It does at least fade out to a graceful conclusion, but is as insubstantial (and as sweet) as an Angel Delight.

  7. 7
    lonepilgrim on 20 Jun 2014 #

    I don’t mind this too much – I always have a sense with Anthony Newley that he is acutely aware of the artifice of these performances, which may well be why he appealed so much to Bowie early on. As confirmation of this it’s worth checking out ‘The Strange World of Gurney Slade’ from the same year as this song which is meta-TV avant la lettre. There are longer clips of the show out there than the one below but this gives a flavour of its strangeness.

  8. 8
    Gareth Parker on 1 Jun 2021 #

    I like Anthony Newley, but this song is a tad slight for my taste. Still, 5/10 from me.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page